At this rate Uber is not going to be having a very merry Christmas, as this week alone the ride sharing app is facing several bans and potential legal action in a number of countries and cities that have either deemed the app illegal and certain parts of the service illegal. This is all on top of the contentions it’s already dealing with.
Just at the end of November Uber faced a seemingly endless barrage of bad press over comments made by an executive to dig up dirt on journalists and its ‘God View’ function, which raised serious privacy concerns. Now it’s facing several new headaches across the globe that will see the app dancing around different legal and regulatory issues in order to continue operations. Here we take a look at some of the biggest challenges ahead.
This week has seen the most serious case for Uber where an Uber driver was arrested for the suspected rape of a female passenger in the capital city Delhi. Police say the man has confessed but has given no official statement so there are no signs of a court case yet. The outrage over the incident has shined a light on the vetting process (or supposed lack thereof) for Uber drivers before they start carrying passengers.
Delhi’s city government took swift action in response to this horrific incident and has banned not only Uber but many other taxi apps too with just a handful of apps avoiding the ban. Meanwhile the government is advising other states to follow suit. The Uber app is still taking bookings however, according to a report from the BBC, but in the coming months, Uber will have several hurdles to vault in order to get back to regular business in the densely populated country while the severe crime also continues to bring attention to the harrowing trend of violence against women in India.
Uber has faced plenty of pitfalls in Europe, most infamously in London and Berlin but you can now add Spain to Uber’s growing list of problems. A judge in Spain ruled on Tuesday that the app must cease operations, in response to a complaint from the Madrid Taxi Association that said Uber lacks the “administrative authority” to operate a tax service.
Laws in Spain deem that this is simply unfair competition but Uber did not have a representative in court on the day to contest the ruling and the company hasn’t yet officially responded. Meanwhile in Barcelona, the Catalonian government is considering a similar ban of taxi apps that run irregularly, says TechCrunch. Elsewhere in Europe, a court in the Netherlands has ordered UberPop to discontinue its service with Uber vowing to challenge it.
Here’s another very recent example, showing Uber has just as many challenges at home in the US. On Monday Portland, Ore. revealed it was suing Uber for operating illegally in the city. Mayor Charlie Hayes said the move is driven by health and safety as well as the issue of fairness. “Because everyone agrees: good regulations make for a safer community. Uber disagrees, so we’re seeking a court injunction,” he said.
City Commissioner Steve Novick said that Uber should have to face the city government to make its case over controversial topics like pricing (Uber has drawn the ire of customers over its ‘surge pricing’) and making its services available to customers with disabilities. Uber has until December 11 to cease operating in Portland or it could face a court order.
In the same week that Uber was subject to its worst week at the time, that being the controversy surrounding smearing journalists that criticize the company, one of North America’s largest cities, Toronto, began action against the ride sharing app.
The City launched its action  to shut down the service, saying it was operating without a license since 2012. The app has been pretty popular in Toronto so this could very well help the company get over this particular hurdle as one opinion poll reported by the Toronto Star showed that 68 percent of respondents want the app to stay and disagree with the City’s legal actions. Toronto’s new mayor John Tory is of the same thinking, adding that he believes Uber should be here to stay. These will be two vital votes of confidence for Uber in contesting the legal action as losing its presence in a major city like Toronto would be a considerable blow.
Time to hop continents one last time and now we’re in Thailand where the government has said that ‘some’ of the app’s operations are illegal. Once again the issue is with appropriately registering vehicles. “Thailand does not ban the use of applications in calling taxi services,” said Teerapong Rodprasert of the country’s Land Transport department. “It’s the use of vehicles that are not properly registered that we do not allow.”
This statement comes after his department met with several taxi apps to discuss the best way to move forward that is compliant with the law. In a statement, Uber said it will work with the department to continue operations there but how much will it have to sacrifice in order to do so?